Show Notes - Episode 94
Episode 94: It's All A Grey Area
Can I just say how happy I am that I never went to a Christian high school? Because I almost did. The very notion gives me pause to think about it now and this edition of Unbound at the movies offers a myriad of examples of how my already skewed adolescence could actually have been worse. I'm Spider...
...and tonight we're going to take a scene-by-scene look at a movie I've referenced numerous times on this show and one that even as a late-stage evangelical I had to admit got a lot of details about teenage Christian life embarrassingly correct. We're looking at the movie “Saved!” and if you haven't seen it yet, I hope you'll give it a go, especially if you're ex-evangelical and squandered your adolescence being drunk on the Kool Aid like I did. But before we dive in to that...
Creationist crackpots, the end of an error, and, “I shot the Sherriff a letter but he didn't take down that unconstitutional mural” this week on CBB – New Year's Dissolution edition
The Movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8E7wAdnQCI
Here's our first story: this has gotta be one of the next things God Awful Movies will tackle. Hemant Mehta over at the Friendly Atheist twitter describes it better than I ever could:
“I regret to inform you that Creationists made a horror (?) movie called "Night at the Creation Museum." The main character, played by Eric Hovind, seems to be an atheist laughing at the exhibits because these people "don't even believe in science." Then the dinosaurs attack.”
Actually, I should correct that last sentence to “then the obviously ripped off from Jurassic Park dinosaur noises chase a security guard around and they flash lights on an obviously stationary statue.” It's obviously a rip off of “Night at the Museum” AND and ad for the Creation Museum all at once!
I watched the 'trailer' for this thing, it was...as bad as I expected. Eric Hovind plays Derrick Dailey (what is it about Christians and alliterative names?), a guy who gets a job as a security guard at the Creation Museum...somehow never actually finding out who the owners are or what they believe. Over the course of the night, he learns about “the truth” of biblical literalism. Sounds exciting no?
I didn't think so either.
Of course, like all Christian movies it pretty much bludgeons you over the head with “The Message” and extra preachiness. The continuous dull lectures on why evolution must be false are devoid of any sort of humor, and of course, there's also the misinformation.
At one point...we come across a display that tells the horrific story of a short Black man who was featured in a “human zoo” exhibit over a century ago. We’re told that’s what “evolution leads to”… as if acknowledging our shared ancestry with apes is somehow an endorsement of slavery or colonialism.
The “movie” is 35 minutes, was filmed on a cell phone and is already out on YouTube. And so is the sequel, (because of course there's a sequel no one asked for) “A Night at the Ark Encounter”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO95n_tH_Co
This one, they brag that it was filmed in 12 hours, again, on a cellphone. To be very honest, while the story is laughable, it must have been a pretty nice cellphone because the recording is pretty good.
This story is a little different because it covers an ongoing trend. I have to admit to feeling a little sad in a weird way when an old church closes it's doors. It's a sentiment that goes to my upbringing in Episcopal church, back when no one used microphones and the Internet didn't exist. While I know that this is what happens, I have mostly pleasant memories about my childhood as an Episcopal. So this article Hemant Mehta wrote about a Pennsylvania church closing it's doors after 221 years. I saw a picture of the church and it really does look like a church I would have attended as a child in the 70's and early 80's. No microphone. No large screens projecting song lyrics. No website, no Youtube channel for this church.
While COVID might have contributed to the closure, it was on route to this fate for years. Here's a quote from an article by Bret Pallotto from the Centre Daily Times:
The church that was organized at a time when there were only 16 states had no shortage of movers and shakers throughout the years. It was established by the same men who founded Bellefonte, while other members included two former Pennsylvania governors.
[Church elder Candace] Dannaker estimated the church had about 40 members before the pandemic, a number that is down to about 25. Only about a dozen attend services in person. The church did not have in-person worship from March 2020 until Easter Sunday.
Attendance is down even more sharply from when Dannaker joined 34 years ago. She estimated there were about 200 people in attendance then.
The problem with traditional churches is just that: tradition. When the only reason you ever went to church is because 'it's just what you do” that isn't going to keep people going to church. And as the congregation ages, so do the amount of people going to church. “When no one is forcing you to do it, you will find better things to do with your time.”
The building's future is up in the air. But the people will find other places to worship. Or, better yet, find better things to do with their time.
I'd like to see these places become hubs of community. Most of the traditional mainline churches have facilities much like old elementary schools as well as neighborhood locations much of the time. Old churches like the one in the article have history behind them, which is a good basis for making it a historic landmark.
I'd definitely rather see that than it become a storefront for another church.
When you walk into the Columbus County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina you will see the inscription from Philippians 4:13 emblazoned in large letters on the wall. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.” News of this reached the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who sent a letter stating among other things, that “this bible verse display promoting Christianity in a sheriff’s office building is correctly viewed by a reasonable observer as an endorsement of religion, and is therefore unconstitutional.”
It's not the only thing the Sheriff's office has done. This Christmas they posted an overtly religious holiday message celebrating the “birth of our lord and savior.” Christianity for everyone!
While this display is obviously unconstitutional, nothing has been done in response to the Foundation's letter except for a doubling-down of the Sheriff's beliefs. Instead the Sheriff's department Facebook page contained a message from Sheriff Jody Green which stated in part:
… It[the mural]was paid for with private funds, not with county funding. The verse is one of my favorite Bible verses, and it seemed fitting for all the adversity I have had to endure. It is very motivational to me and my staff. Here at the Sheriff’s Office, we work hard in everything that we do. Before we execute a search warrant, or any service that puts our people in immediate harms way, we ALWAYS go to the Lord with a group prayer. ALWAYS!
I was raised in church. I have been in law enforcement for over thirty years. My training taught me to value God, family, and my country. Going back to the Bible verse, I have taken many pictures with that Bible verse in the backdrop with not a single issue, but now that we are going into an election year, it is an issue. How absurd! It seems to me we have a few sheep in wolves clothing. That’s all. This is a political ploy. Some want a person that they can control. Companies spend thousands of dollars on motivational classes, to come up with motivational slogans. My motivation comes from the greatest motivational speaker of all times, Jesus Christ.
… Just look at where our society is headed. It is time, past time, to stand up. So let me be clear, I will not waiver on my stance and Christian beliefs.
Of course, Sheriff Greene's screed also includes the typical “our society is going down the tubes, drugs alcohol, we need more christians obviously!” thing that seems to be their go to any time people want to complain about the division of church and state.
And he seems to believe that the mural is legal, that proselytizing as part of his job is legal—it isn't! He clearly states that he's promoting Christianity in his office. He also seems to believe that asking him to stop doing that or taking down the scripture verse is asking him to give up his Christian faith. Of course, it isn't. That said, if he wants to promote Christianity why doesn't he just become a preacher? Seems that's what he wants to do anyway.
Can you imagine what would happen if he was promoting anything else but Christianity? This nonsense would never have had the chance to get started.
Fun facts about the movie Saved!
From an article from pluggedin.com:
DISCLAIMER: This site is run by Focus on the Family so don't expect anything profound here. It just happens that the article on this movie is presented in a way that allows room for discussion so I'm giving it a nod and adding my two cents as we go.
The script for this film originally called for the Elms, a Christian retro band, to play themselves at American Eagle’s prom. But the Elms backed out a week before their scene was to be shot. Band manager Craig Jager said his band was not amused by the script’s mocking spiritual tone. “It’s over the top. It brings out a radical type of Christian lifestyle.”
Does it, though? I used to hop in a van and converge on wayward youth group members. I used to think A LOT like Hilary Faye. I used to TALK a lot like Hilary Faye. I was every bit as self-absorbed and I had the same misguided thoughts about how I did Christianity. I didn't need “equipment” to lead someone to Christ but I did carry my Bible to school every single day and led more than a few people into the fold. One radical character, in my opinion, doesn't equate to a radical depiction of Christian life. I was encouraged to be a radical. Everyone was. Thankfully most of my friends thought better of it, at least as teens. Some of my HS friends got radicalized later on – in college or after. Patrick is the balance to the scales in this movie. He was much more typical of the way a lot of my friends thought. He believed but he had a profoundly humanist side to his personality. Something I wish I'd had looking back.
Let's start out by looking for a few minutes at the major players in the cast:
Mary – very typical of the “God told me to...” mindset. Everything she does in this movie stems from a profound belief that she's doing what Jesus wants. She's one side of the white savior trope in this movie. The other side comes out in our next key player...
Hilary Faye – She's the white savior character amped up to 11. All of her emotions center on proving to the world what a great Christian she is, how God talks to her, how driven she is to save people, particularly Mary and Cassandra. She's also a terrible loser with an absolutely vile vindictive nature which we will see toward the end.
Cassandra – Cass is the antithesis of the evangelical teenage ideal. She's a rebel. She smokes. She has sex. She drinks. She has a Jesus fish on her car that says “gefilte” because her background is Jewish and a bumper sticker that says “Jesus loves you, everyone else thinks you're and asshole” because she has a sense of humor and a deep-seated need to mock these idiots she's being forced to learn beside due to some poor past choices. HF is relentless in trying to convert Cass. Truth be told, she only wants Cassandra to get saved because finding Christ would rob her of her sense of self and make her more like the average AE student. HF is threatened by Cassandra because Cass embodies the radicalism that makes up HF's persona, but has the added element of personal empowerment and freedom from religion that any Christian who's honest with themselves would have to admit they envy.
Roland – HF's disabled brother who became paralyzed in an accident at age 9. HF is his caregiver during school hours and clearly resents the responsibility. Roland's outlook on life is healthier than average in this movie. His personality and thought processes are a lot like our next player...
Patrick – A sort of a-typical PK. He's pastor Skip's son and has some very liberal views on things for the environment he's in. He steps in as the voice of reason more than once in the course of events.
Dean – He has a small part but the movie kind of revolves around him. He embodies well the struggles of being a Christian teenager who is also gay.
So much of what happens in this is familiar... and would have been more so if I'd gone to a Christian HS.
“I've been born again my whole life” (since age 3)
everything part of god's plan – even dad's death – suicide attempt (I wanted to be with the angels too)
Mary and HF are painting HF's Jesus statue outside the school. Roland comments that he doesn't think Jesus was white, HF retorts with, “Of COURSE he's white!”
The Christian Jewels – a “girl gang” for Jesus
Mom is the #1 Christian interior decorator in her town
That Christian concert shot brought back memories
Mary is starting senior year at American Eagle Christian HS and has the “perfect Christian boyfriend.
(shorts too short?)
It's the end of the Summer
Telling secrets under water
Two weeks before the end of Summer vacation Mary and Dean (her BF) play the game and he tells her he thinks he's gay
Mary is so shocked she hits her head on the ladder. The pool boy who looks very stereotypical Jesusey dives in to save her.
She sees a vision of Jesus telling her that Dean needs her and that she must do whatever she can to help him
Now we see mom and pastor Skip which is very jarring for anyone who likes Weeds...
“How could my boyfriend be gay? He's the best Christian I know.”
“A spiritually toxic affliction”
They go up to their town's Makeout point. She tries having him kiss her, squeeze a boob, etc... and nada. He's not turned on like... at all.
Now we meet Hilary Faye – at a shooting range. A CHRISTIAN shooting range (Emmanuel Shooting Range – AN Eye for An Eye)
Hilary Faye is committed to her virginity under pain of death
“I'm saving myself till marriage and I'll use force if necessary”
She and Mary talk about the what ifs... like, what if you do it? Then what?
“Emotional and spiritual virginity” or “secondary virginity”
After that convo, Mary comes home and seduces Dean. They have sex. She thinks he's “cured” and thanks Jesus.
Their neighborhood is kinda Cuesta Verde, kind of Agrestic (Little boxes...)
Hilary Faye has a disabled brother named Roland (Macaulay Culkin) and has a chip on her shoulder over it. Roland, on the other hand, has a really good self-image. He isn't anywhere near as bothered by his disability as his sister is. He is my second favorite character in this movie, mostly because he figured out what a crock of shit this whole Christianity thing was while he was young and has a very good time mocking it all.
Veronica is the stereotypical adopted kid from Vietnam. She doesn't have a lot to do here but we'll see her again.
So they go to pick up Dean for the first day of school to find out that he's been sent to mercy house (a “Christian treatment facility”) for “de-gayification” because his parents found gay porn in his room. This transpires within a matter of hours.
Mary tells HF and crew what's going on and HF almost drives her van off the road. Roland says he's not surprised and descriibes Dean as a “one man gay pride parade.”
“gayness can be passed on to your children”
Love the Depeche Mode cover as they're walking in.
Now it's time to meet Cassandra - “the only Jewish ever to attend American Eagles”
Rumors that she was a stripper
Has a Jesus fish on her car that says gefilte and a bumper sticker that says “Jesus loves you, everyone else thinks you're an asshole” that Hilary Faye can't help but deface...
“Second hand smoke kills”
“I'm counting on it”
School is about to begin
“Jesus is watching” painted on the classroom wall
Now we meet Tia who regales the class with a story about how “Jesus appeared to me in my fish tank” and Patrick, pastor Skip's son and he immediately get's Mary's attention.
We jump cut as the teacher asks Mary what she did over the Summer. Um....
Cassandra is having a smoke when Roland rolls up behind her.
This next scene looks SOOOOO famliiar. The song the Christian Jewels sing makes no sense and I think that was on purpose...
Cassandra tells him she thought he'd have been sent to a “special school” by now. He points out that AE is a special school... they chat, there's clear chemistry... he talks about how he got hurt... but he needs to step up his game because he gets caught looking at (and commenting on) her ass.
Now Pastor Skip gets the chance to try (and fails) to look relevant and in-touch.
Get our Christ on, kick it Jesus style... who's down with G-O-D? Jesus rules... Jesus rules....
Hilary Faye prays for the best year ever because she “deserves it”
Veronica silently repents of “letting that guy touch me in the rectory”
Tia wants her dad to stop drinking and wants to be a Jewel
Cassandra is thinking about whether Roland is paralyzed... everywhere below the waist and the look on her face... yep. Chemistry. Major chemistry.
And Roland knows it
Patrick just doesn't want dad to embarrass him... especially in front of Mary
Mary asks Jesus why he isn't keeping up his end of the deal and asks God if he “restored her”
Now for the rededication altar call... because clearly all of these kids backslid over the Summer... and down to the altar they go and then....
Cassandra starts yelling... in “tongues” and pastor Skip is buying it hook, line and sinker
“She's gonna show her boobs”
“My pussy is a hot pussy”
Hilary Faye calls her out
Cassandra went from “cautionary tale to legend” and Hilary deals with her anger by wishing she'd get saved
Patrick shows up after school while Mary and Co. are out in the parking lot, donning his Living Epistles t-shirt that says “JESUS” but it looks like the AC/DC logo. He stops to specifically talk to Mary and Hilary Faye hijacks the convo. Now we follow them to the mall and here comes Cassandra again (the muffin shop is closed!)
Tia works in the food court and hooks them up with some free food. Hilary Faye want to show Cass how cool Christians can be – this is also very familiar...
Cassandra just runs a train on the party and asks Roland if he wants to get out of there so she can take a ride on his wheelchair (release the parking brake, Hilary!) Cassandra is drunk and smelling like Tia's dad.
Now we're in girls' PE and Partrick runs by. Mary notices and Hilary Faye notices M noticing... but Cass runs interference by pointing out to HF that she can see her pad. LOL...
A little bit later Mary is not feeling so good. We see her hugging porcelain in the girls' bathroom. We all know where this is headed...
Skip is teaching sex ed and explaining that sex is meant only for procreation and shows the class two very clearly male/female but also quite androgynous models in case we weren't clear what Barbie and Ken dolls look like...
Mary asks an awkward question about whether sometimes it's God's will for someone to not wait for marriage...
Now Mom and Mary are at home watching TV. They're watching this movie's equivalent to Jeopardy and one of the categories is the bible. We find out right here how much Mom knows her Bible... then they switch to some god awful fictional lifetime movie... “Bitter Harvest” with Valerie Bertinelli talking about how she thought she was pregnant and found out that what was really going on was that she had cancer. At this point the thought of being pregnant is kind of a fleeting sort of dread amped up a little by the morning sickness, but that's about to change...
Mary has started suspecting that something is up. She goes to buy a pregnancy test. She runs into Tia who also works at the pharmacy (how many jobs does this girl have??) but manages to hide the box so Tia can't see it. Close call.
Mary rides her bike home chanting “please let it be cancer” but, of course, the test comes out positive. She has a moment of denial and calls the company to ask about false positives. Yeah, ok...
Meanwhile, the kids at AE have organized a prayer circle to pray the gay away from Dean. We then find out that Hilary Faye organized it. Remember when we talked about gossip prayers a while back?
Tia: Sorry about Dean's faggotry”
“You're not born a gay, you're born again!”
More Cass and Roland – they are really liking each-other's company
“Scared of being seen with a stripper?”
“Scared of being seen with a cripple?”
“I'm not really a stripper, ya know”
“I'm not really a Christian”
She got expelled from her last school and it was AE or homeschooling
They spot Mary coming out of Planned Parenthood and speculate that she might be planting a pipe bomb. Cass suggests... and other reason and Roland says the pipe bomb is more likely. Heh...
And then it happens... they kiss! I love their story arc. It's so awesome.
Mary is feeling betrayed. Where is Jesus in all this? She stares up at a cross and swears at it. This girl is ANGRY.
Now we get to see the prayer circle and HF is being HF and her “prayer” is VERY typical – fueled with hate and homophobia.
Mary: “Jesus isn't listening”
“prayer works, it's been medically proven”
HF kicks her out of the Jewels and Mary tells her that everything she's doing is a waste of time.
Mary goes home and she and mom talk about why Dean's parents sent him away so fast. Mom says it's like when you take your car to a mechanic because you can't solve the problem on your own.
Mary figures out the baby is going to be born right after graduation and then calls Dean. The subject of her pregnancy keeps getting stifled. She never gets a chance to tell him but it's not for lack of trying. Dean is convinced that Mercy House is going to help him.
I love how they've roomed Dean with another gay boy (Mitch)...
It's Halloween and, for some reason, these people are wearing costumes at a Christian HS. Roland shows up as a roller skate, Cass is a witch, all the jewels are wearing angel wings.
Cass has rigged her car so Roland can drive.
Mary then attempts to upgrade her religion. She goes “looking for another god.”
Cass tells Mary she saw her leaving the clinic. Mary says she was handing out pamphlets
Pastor Skip is also noticing something is off with Mary and reaches out to her “friends” who then launch an intervention... to the tune of Tubular Bells.
“I need you to be extra gentle...” heh...
Hilary Faye rolls up in her van and out jumps Tia Veronica with her. They grab Mary, drag her in the van and attempt to exorcise her.
gotta get rid of the evil in you
you are backsliding
magnet for sin
You don't know the first thing about love
Hilary throws her bible at Mary and Mary reminds her that the Bible is not a weapon
Mary stomps off and a short way away, Patrick shows up and offers her a ride on his vespa. He tells her that he doesn't think there's anything wrong with Dean. Not bad for a PK...
“Mercy house doesn't exist for the people they send there. It exists for the people who do the sending.”
“Why were you at HF's praying?”
“Honestly, I thought you'd be there.”
They get to Mary's house and he asks her out. She turns him down. Her life is complicated. But he's not gonna give up... I love Patrick's self-confidence. I've NEVER had anywhere close.
More gossip prayer... HF asks the class to pray for Mary... in FRONT OF MARY. Cass kind of taunts Mary a little but she's about to step up a little.
Santa = Satan in the bathroom stall
Cass has figured things out and actually tries to have a productive and serious talk with Mary (laced with snark, of course). We're starting to see another side of Cass and I like her even more at this point.... It is becoming more and more apparent just how much of a front she puts up, but she still clearly has certain issues, hence her checkered past. Mary admits that she's pregs and. Cass steps in as the voice of reason and tells Mary what she did wasn't stupid...
Cass decides to smuggle Mary out of school with Roland who is... driving Cass's car. The plan worked. Scary but fun. They take Mary to try on a lot of maternity clothes. Roland treats. With HF's credit card.
Cass and Mary talk about the Mary and Patrick situation and about Cass and Roland's relationship. “He gets me and I get him.”
HF shows up... with PATRICK. Awkward. Cass pretends she wants to get saved because she's lonely at Christmastime. HF laments not having all her “equipment.” Wut??? Cass starts confessing her sins. This whole thing is a ploy to distract HF while Mary and Partick run off. They escape to a storage room at the mall. Patrick once again tells Mary that he likes her and she asks why. He tells her he admires her for how she handled things at the prayer circle. “You're beautiful and you speak for yourself. You amaze me.” Oh he's got it bad...
She rejects him again and can't come up with anything better than “you're not my type.” Of course she likes him but her life is a lil complicated right now.
HF is still riding a high over getting Cass saved. Cass tells her she's decided to give her life to Satan.
Now it's time for the Christmas pageant full of white people and Mary speculates whether Mary (Jesus' mother) made up the whole virgin birth thing.
All of a sudden it's Valentine's day and HF has a huge box of chocolates... that she bought for herself. She has made a valentines card for Patrick. Way to be subtle. Patrick has left one in Mary's locker... and it clearly means something to her.
Pastor Skip and Patrick talk about Skip's marital issues. His marriage is over but he wont get a divorce because it's not god's plan. Patrick suggests he devise a new plan.
The picture of the family – OMG....
Another brief scene between Mary and Mom (Lil)
“When Jesus closes a door he opens a window”
“So we can have something to jump out of”
Skip and Lilian (mom) are out to dinner and he will not shut up about his work. Lil tells him she “missed their time together” and that she likes spending time with him. She asks why god would make them feel this happy together if it was wrong... so they've had a bit of a thing for a while but it hasn't become a sexual thing as of yet.
Skip can think of NOTHING but his religion... except maybe kissing Lilian. She tells him to kiss her and he does! Yay! It's very awkward but it's a kiss. Mom is in a VERY good mood the next day...
Mary talks about how Skip has tried to get Patrick to be more involved in school activities to get his mind off dating. So he stars in their spring musical which is inexplicably Jesus Christ Superstar wherein he is hanging on a cross dressed as Rocky in TRHPS.
Cass: “That's what I call being hung on a cross!”
It's Easter and so far no one notices Mary is pregs??
Mary then says she can't understand how someone so pretty (HF) could be so ugly on the inside. That's most Christians, IMO. Whitewashed tombs.
Then we find out that HF has had some... work done to be more attractive. She was quite the ugly duckling a few years back.
Now it's time for yet another confrontation between HF and Cass where the Gospel is once again weaponized in the most annoying and arrogant sort of way... they REALLY got this shit right.
“Burn in hell you narrow-minded tacky-ass bitch!”
Patrick asks Mary to the prom. She accepts... as friends
Pastor Skip puts Cass and Mary on the prom committee... with HF. Then we find out they got a band called “Godflight” to perform at the prom. All I could hear there was “gaslight” but I know that wasn't it.
Then Cass humiliates HF by setting the picture of her from a few years ago on every computer desktop in the computer lab. She's PISSED that Pastor Skip won't do anything about it. “Those who did this won't escape the eyes of God, HF...”
HF prays for “guidance.”
The next day, they get to school to find the outside of the building vandalized with lots of anti-christian graffiti. They start searching lockers, including Mary's for evidence and they find her sonogram pic.
Her “science” teacher tries to cover for her, but the picture drops to the floor.
Now the whole truth is coming out. Mary tells mom and PS everything.
Skip decides that god is punishing him and Lil for their sin of falling for each-other. He demands that Lil send Mary to Mercy House or he will end the relationship.
Skip then expels Cass because clearly she defaced the school property, which is what HF wanted him to think all along.
No one is happy right now. Patrick still loves Mary even knowing what's going on with her. Lil and Skip miss each-other like crazy, HF is still acting scorned, Roland is lonely because Cass has gone AWOL and won't let him comfort her. Cass is doing the drive and think thing I've done often. She's hurt and actually prays (which is a little disappointing, but this movie doesn't exist to promote atheism any more than it does to promote Christianity) that she can find Roland, which she does but then doesn't make a big deal of it.
Mary and Lil argue over her going to Mercy House. Lil says that having a baby out of wedlock will ruin Mary's life. She suggests giving the baby up for adoption. Only one problem: Mary was also born under less than ideal circumstances – or it's at least implied that she was an out-of-wedlock baby.
HF's card declines while she's getting her hair done.... surprise!
Roland and Cass talk – and what an amazing talk they have (I want you)
Roland has a “crazy idea' about prom night
Roland discovers that HF bought a bunch of spray paint on her card. He convinces Mary to go to Prom. He and Cass are already decked out. Patrick shows up to take Mary to prom. He tells her that her situation doesn't matter to him. They kiss and it's romantic AF. Now it's time to go to prom.
Now Tia knows what HF did too. She finds a receipt in HF's car...
Lil is at home watching TV... she thinks Mary is in her room. She ain't. LOL...
Now we're at prom listening to gaslight... er... Godflight
HF is on stage now looking very superior, flanked by Tia and Veronica. She's already pissed because she saw Mary and Patrick kissing...
Now she's calling out Mary and Cass, accusing them of the vandalism.
Skip decides to let them stay and HF goes OFF.
“I did not have sex with a gay and try and blame it on Jesus!”
Roland calls out his own sister and exposes what she did. Now everyone wants her to swear she didn't do it... so she does... but Tia calls her out with the receipt which has HF's signature on it and a spray can.
V tells HF she's nothing but a big fake.
HF: “I just did this because Jesus told me to...”
Jesus tells people to do a lot of stupid shit in this movie....
But it gets better! Dean show up at prom. In a stolen car from Mercy House. With his BOYFRIEND.
Dean... “notices” that Mary is pregnant (hard to miss) and he thinks it's “awesome.”
Skip tells them to leave. He can tolerate vandalism but not homosexuality, apparently.
Patrick decides to stand up to his dad. Skip says that the bible is very black and white about homosexuality. There are no grey areas. Patrick argues that “it's all a grey area.” And he's right.
We've been kicked out of our hmes and our school, now mercy house
“There is no room for moral ambiguity here.”
Mary: “Everything that doesn't fit into some stupid idea of what you think god wants you try to hide or fix or get rid of. It's all too much to live up to. No one fits in 100% of the time, not even you.”
Dean: I know in my heart that Jesus still loves me
Mary: Why would god make us all so different if he wanted us to be the same?
HF is now completely off the rails. She is irrational and driving recklessly through the parking lot, toppling the Jesus statue she herself made. Her tiara falls on the floor. Nice symbolism!
Save the heathens... be a warrior... sacrifice everything... and here's your big, fat, stupid reward.
Abandonment by Jesus is a huge theme here, too.
Roland: Are you OK?
HF: “I crashed my van into JESUS!”
HF: Do you think Jesus still loves me?
Roland: Probably not... Yeah... sure.
Mary then goes into labor in the midst of all the excitement because why not... things are happening a little early. Lil assures Mary that Mary didn't ruin her life...
Skip is dealing with his inner conflict, pacing the parking lot with a bouquet and looking very, very frustrated. Dean is digging being a dad and there's a nice “happily ever after” vibe... among those not drunk on the kool aid.
The last shot in this was a little cushiony for my taste, but I can forgive it. Mary looks at her daughter and decides that there has to be “something” out there. It can't all be by chance... but then backtracks a little and says that maybe that something comes from inside. You just have to feel it. Better call, I think since it's (no) more than a feeling. “What would Jesus do? I don't know. I guess we'll figure it out....” I think it was a CYA move to address the “what if...” aspect of belief. Here's what the Plugged In article had to say:
[Director Brian] Dannelly claims that Saved! presents “authentic Christian teens who make poor choices, have a crisis of faith, seek answers, and ultimately emerge with a genuine faith made strong through the fire of life.” But what Dannelly considers “genuine faith” is expressed onscreen as nothing more than feel-good, wishy-washy pluralism.”
Good characterization. And accurate. I'd like to know if this guy ever spent five minutes in an evangelical youth group or Christian HS before he made this movie because that assessment is pretty naïve for a guy who got so much right. Then again, given the source, who knows how much of what he said made it into that quote...
“Star Jena Malone is more accurate when she defines her character’s journey as a “breaking down of faith.” After having her baby—surrounded by everyone in the movie who can’t seem to stand Christians—Mary acknowledges that “life is too amazing to be random and meaningless.” But she’s not about to begin embracing Jesus again. The implications are clear: “There has to be a god,” she says, but the Bible isn’t the way to find him. “You just have to feel it.”
So I want to end off with a few comments on that but, first, just a couple parting impressions of this movie. I'm not sure precisely how much experience the director has with this subject but he did do a stellar job of shining light on all the things that make this religion so unsavory. I was amazed at how many memories it evoked. I was equally amazed at how well clearly non-christian actors portrayed the stereotypical Christian teenager. These people got it right. Way right. Skip was a little over the top but only a slight caricature. I have a soft spot for him. His overall demeanor is... familiar.
Cassandra and Roland's arc is still one of my favorite things in teen movies, if I had to pinpoint a “favorite” anything in that genre. It's also my favorite of Macaulay Culkin's roles and I say that in kind of the same vain. His late pubescent character in this has a lot of layers to it and his onscreen chemistry with Eva Amurri is very convincing.
So what about the moral message? Well here's what I think. When a secular movie can get this many details about this age group and how the religion affects it, it affirms in my mind that you don't have to be a Christian to see it, but you do have to be one to not see the wrong in it. I found the way everyone's inner struggles are dealt with in this movie to be consistent with what I experienced and witnessed as a teenage evangelical.
While I absolutely love this movie, I admit that it does needle at my religious trauma ever so slightly, mostly in just how many points of relatability I have with Hilary Faye. That part still bothers me all these years since seeing this movie for the first time. Mary was right in her assessment of HF as being beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside. Most of the time I felt like both and, in ways, it's every bit as bad now remembering the various effects I had on people as a Christian teen. There weer moments when even my best friends called me out over things I had decided Jesus was telling me to do, say, etc. even though I knew it would steamroll over people's feelings or self-esteem.
The toxic messaging about sex and sexuality that this movie exposes has only gotten worse in the years since Saved! Premiered and Christian teens are still bombarded with false information and coercered into making decisions about their sexuality that are unrealistic, unnecessary, and hoplessly intrusive on their intellects and emotions. They don't want teenagers to think straight or right about sex or learn anything about responsibility as it relates to it. The overall mindset of many of these characters is one that would likely mirror Peggy Sue's mother's sentiments in Peggy Sue Got Married: “Peggy, do you know what a penis is? Stay away from it.” That's as cerebral as it gets.
Homophobia is so pervasive in this micro-culture of AE that even defacing the school with profanities and blasphemies is considered a forgivable offense but the instant Dean and his posse arrive at prom, Skip is right there to evict them.
And let's talk just for a second about the whole “Jesus told me to” bit here...
At the end of the day, I don't think there was anything remotely unfair or over the top about the way this movie portrays its subject. In fact, the sheer absurdity of so much of what certain characters, particularly HF and pastor Skip say and do make for a stellar counter-apologetic that anyone can understand. And when you're ex-evangelical and add to that understanding a sometimes uncofrotable level of relatability, it makes a person that much more thankful to know that he (or she) has found their way out. And just to respond to Mary's statement at the end, if I have to look inside myself to find god, why on earth would I keep kidding myself about everything having meaning or purpose. We live in a marvelously random universe. Our existence is among the most improbable things there is and while it's comforting to think there's something else out there, why do we need it if we already have each-other?
And finally, what's wrong with the notion of our very existence being random and meaningless? It sure beats having to live our lives in debt to a god whose loyalties are so tragically undefined and inconsistent that the only prayer he answers in this entire movie is the one prayed by the one who mocks him the most and, one could argue, blasphemes the Holy Spirit – a sin that the Bible defines as unforgivable. THAT is what I call random and meaningless. Keep looking within for the things your god is supposed to represent because chances are you're better at things like love than him, you probably make far better choices than he would, and I'm sure you're a better problem solver than he could ever be. Embrace your meaninglessness. It'll help you not take yourself too seriously. Better still, it'll help you get and stay Unbound.